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From Isolation to Fellowship to Oneness

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From Isolation to Fellowship to Oneness

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From Isolation to Fellowship to Oneness

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God does not want us to isolate, but to work, interact and to fellowship with others in the faith that we might know true joy. Oneness is a unity of thought and cannot be achieved without the help of God's Holy Spirit. It requires full-time effort, self-sacrifice, and service to show true concern and interest in the welfare of others.

Transcript

[Jim Moody] Brethren, I'd like to start off by asking all of you, as we are in class here, to draw a line across your page and your paper. Go ahead and draw a line horizontally all the way across the page. And, of course, our youth are definitely invited to do this as well. And on the left end of the line, I want you to put a dot, and above the dot I want you to write the word isolation. Isolation. And then in the middle of the line, go ahead and put another dot, and above that dot write the word fellowship. And then on the far right end of the line, put a third dot, and above that dot, write the word oneness. Oneness. O-N-E-N-E-S-S. Oneness.

Now, this line that you have drawn represents a desired progression through various aspects, through various phases, of our life. At certain times, we can find ourselves in an isolation phase. You know, it can be as a former teenager, who is now a young adult and out on their own for the first time. Sometimes we can get out on our own, and we're really excited, but then we can kind of get that lonely feeling and that isolated feeling sometimes. It can be a person who doesn't have many friends, or one who stays at home rather than going to church. Isolation can happen after someone has been through a major event in their life. So isolation can manifest itself in a number of ways.

I'd like to talk today about progressing along that line, moving away from isolation, over to fellowship, and then eventually on to oneness. Because as we go through phases of our life, if we are not careful, it can be very easy to slip back into an isolation, when we should always really be moving towards oneness, as much as it is in our control, that is.

So we will start out talking about isolation. Isolation can be voluntary or involuntary. Too often, though, we voluntarily choose to withdraw ourselves from others and we choose to be isolated. As we will see, that's not the place where God wants us to be at.

Let's start out in Proverbs, chapter 18, if you want to turn over there. Proverbs 18 is probably the most pointed scripture addressing this action of isolation. And so we're going to start here in Proverbs chapter 18, and we’ll just read verse number 1, where it says:

Proverbs 18:1 Proverbs 18:1Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeks and intermeddles with all wisdom.
American King James Version×
A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire.

You know it seems like, a lot of times, when a person purposely separates himself from others, it's often because there is a selfish motive is involved. It's not always the case, but oftentimes it is. I've heard this from time to time through the years of people saying that they would much rather spend their Sabbath and stay at home, not go to church, and stay at home and do extra Bible study on the Sabbath. That's what Proverbs 18:1 Proverbs 18:1Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeks and intermeddles with all wisdom.
American King James Version×
warns us against – isolating ourselves to seek our own desire. Because we may think it's great and it's wonderful to be at home and to spend that extra time Bible studying on the Sabbath, but doing that ignores the other commandments that God gives us – commandments to assemble together, to serve one another, to fellowship with one another. It's a focus on the self instead of a focus on other people. And the last I checked, there is still 24 hours in a Sabbath – still time for extra Bible studying, as well as not isolating ourselves. So, if you see in the rest of Proverbs 18:1 Proverbs 18:1Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeks and intermeddles with all wisdom.
American King James Version×
, again:

V-1 – A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire. He rages against all wise judgment. That's because there is a penalty that comes when we choose to separate ourselves from others. We loose the benefits that come from bearing one another's burdens – from that iron sharpening iron. And what we do is, we put ourselves more at risk for Satan the devil to get in there and to influence us. In our isolation, we've made it a lot more difficult to withstand our common enemy.

Isolation is perilous. We can't underestimate the dangers of that. In 1 Peter, chapter 5, verse 8, it tells us that Satan walks about like a roaring lion. This analogy was used for a reason. Lions are known for their hunting tactics. They like to get in there and separate out the individual animals from the herd, so they can get in there, and they can attack the individual ones. And we humans are not immune from the hunting tactics from our predator as well. Satan works hard to isolate us. And it plays into his hands when there are divisions in our relationships with others or when we make the choice to back off in our fellowshipping with one another. “In a multitude of counselors there is safety,” the scripture says. And so we must not be raging against wise judgment.

Now God does not intend for us to be isolated, for us to be alone. And He teaches us through His word that He expects us to interact with others – to work with others. Let's look at Ecclesiastes, chapter 4. Ecclesiastes 4 shows that being alone has it's disadvantages. So let's read here in Ecclesiastes 4, and we’ll begin in verse 9, where it says:

Ecclesiastes 4:9 Ecclesiastes 4:9Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor.
American King James Version×
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one be warm alone?

So the obvious message here is that two people working together are going to have a lot more success than one person working alone. This scripture makes many contrasts between being connected with others and being alone. Now there are rare times when isolation is needed and is necessary. The Israelites, for instance, they were isolated when they had certain types of sicknesses. Leviticus, chapter 13, goes into some detail on this. We aren’t going to turn there but this chapter talks about how the Israelites, when they developed certain types of sores, and certain types of sicknesses, that they were to be isolated outside the camp of Israel – oftentimes for a period of time – oftentimes for seven days. And then, if the person was not better, then it was another seven days until they did get better. Obviously, the purpose of this isolation was to keep people separate so that the sickness did not spread among the group. But once they were better, they were to come back into the camp. They were to rejoin the group. They were not to stay isolated.

There are also examples in the Bible of people who were forced to be isolated. How did they react when isolation was forced on them? I think about when Paul and Silas were put in prison. Acts, chapter 16, says that they spent time praying, singing hymns to God. And the prisoners, the fellow prisoners that were there were witness to that, and they saw them doing that. They were listening to them.

Hold your place, if you like, in Ecclesiastes 4. Let's turn to Genesis, chapter 40. We will read about really the amazing example of Joseph. You remember how Joseph was forcibly removed from his family and brought to Egypt at around age seventeen. So he was actually younger than what Liam is now. I mean, Mr. Erwiller – sorry about that. But you think about Joseph, still being in his teens, being brought to a land that he had never been to before, around a people that had different customs and different traditions than what he had known all his life. He probably felt isolated – felt alone. But you know what? He made the best of it. He never forsook God. Never forsook what he had been taught, even though he was still a youth. And through hard work and with God's blessings, he became overseer over Potiphar's house. And so he was progressing along that line – away from isolation. But you remember how Joseph was forced back in isolation when he was put into prison for a crime that he didn't commit. Did he go off feeling sorry for himself? It can be so easy to allow our forced isolation to overcome us. That's the wide gate, which Matthew chapter 7, verses 13 and 14, says leads to destruction. The narrow gate – leading to life – is the gate that Joseph continually took, setting a good example in his isolation – working with others. And eventually, he progressed, and he became an authority in the prison. The last verse of Genesis 39 says that God was with him and that whatever Joseph did, God made it to prosper.

So let's pick up the story here in Genesis, chapter 40, and verse number 1.

Genesis 40:1-4 Genesis 40:1-4 [1] And it came to pass after these things, that the butler of the king of Egypt and his baker had offended their lord the king of Egypt. [2] And Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers. [3] And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound. [4] And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them: and they continued a season in ward.
American King James Version×
It came to pass after these things that the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their lord, the king of Egypt. And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief butler and the chief baker. So he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison, the place where Joseph was confined. And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them. So they were in custody for a while. And so Joseph continued serving others, even in his isolation.

V-5 – Then the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison, had a dream, both of them, each man’s dream in one night and each man’s dream with its own interpretation. And Joseph came into them in the morning and looked at them, and saw that they were sad. So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in the custody of his lord’s house, saying, “Why do you look so sad today?”  And they said to him, “We each have had a dream, and there is no interpreter of it.” So Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell them to me, please.” And so from there, Joseph was able to interpret their dreams.

And because he took an interest in them – in his fellow prisoners – it eventually lead him to an audience with the Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. And then, after that, as we know Joseph interpreted Pharaoh's dreams. And because of that, he became second in command over all of Egypt.

And so the point is, that even when life's circumstances force us into isolation, how we react to our isolation is so important. By Joseph showing an interest in his fellow prisoners, it eventually lead to his release.

There are many biblical examples of people who have become involuntarily isolated from other people, from their families, but the good ones didn't allow themselves to be isolated from God. They made the best of their situations. And some were blessed with various levels of relief, and some were not. But the point is that, whether or not we are involuntarily isolated, or we purposely separate ourselves, we're not to stay in isolation. As much as it is in our control, we need to progress out of isolation on to the next phase, which is fellowship.

And so, fellowship. In the New Testament, the Greek work for fellowship is koinonia. K-O-I-N-O-N-I-A. That’s Strong's number 2842. Thayer's Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament defines koinonia as fellowship; association; community; communion; joint participation; intercourse. Now I would summarize this as a coming together.

Now, let's pick up back in Ecclesiastes 4, where we left off. Remember we had read that two were better than one. Now we need to take note unless someone thinks it's enough to just have two of us – “two is all we need.” Well, God goes on here to say that's not the case – Ecclesiastes, chapter 4, verse 12.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 Ecclesiastes 4:12And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
American King James Version×
Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. These verses, they speak to the importance of fellowship – of working together, of synergizing together. And the more of us that there are working together, the harder it is to be overpowered. Our spiritual and physical journey to the Kingdom of God is much more likely to end in success if we don't make this journey alone.

Now 1 John, chapter 1, shows that we are to have fellowship – fellowship with God, with Jesus Christ, and with one another. Let's read that over here in 1 John, chapter – 1 John, chapter 1, and we’ll read verses 3 through 7.

1 John 1:3-7 1 John 1:3-7 [3] That which we have seen and heard declare we to you, that you also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. [4] And these things write we to you, that your joy may be full. [5] This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. [6] If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: [7] But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleans us from all sin.
American King James Version×
That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship – koinonia – with us. And truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. This is the message, which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. So we see here that fellowship is so important – fellowship with God, fellowship with Jesus Christ, fellowship with one another. If we don't have this fellowship, then we won't be able to progress to the place where we could come to get to know God and to be like him in the way that He would want us to.

I'll have to admit, as an introvert by nature, that I have had to grow in this area over the years. It used to be for me, it was not easy for me to just be with people, and to fellowship, and to talk, and to be there. But I feel that I, hopefully, have grown in that area over the years, and I've also come to realize, too, that it's okay to be an introvert. It's okay to have that tendency. I would imagine half of the world's population is probably introverts themselves. And so, that's okay to do. But, what's not okay, though, is to have a consistent pattern of selfish behavior by limiting our fellowship to as little as possible. Again, it doesn't mean that we need to be fellowshipping all the time. It's okay if we need to go home and have that alone time to recharge. That's okay.

But there are various levels of fellowship. For example, we can go to work, and we can do our jobs, and we can work with the same people – our co-workers – day after day, and month after month, and year after year, but not really get to know them – not really get to know about them – what makes them tick. We can be with them, we can fellowship even with them a bit in our work, but is that enough? 

When we fellowship with our families, are we looking to deepen our bonds with them? Are we interested in what's going on in their lives – what we can do to be closer to them – or do we just do the act of coming together because we have to? “My family – gotta get together with them.” Is there form but no substance?

Regarding fellowship with the brethren: is it enough to just come to church each Sabbath, slide in just before the first hymn, listen to the messages, perhaps stay a few minutes after church, and then take off, and then have no more contact until the next Sabbath? Have we taken the time in our fellowship to really get to know one another – to become one with them? Do we reach out to our fellow brethren from time to time during the week – the other six days of the week, as well? It's an incredible blessing we have here in the Big Sandy area – for you and I – because so many of us live so close together that we can actually see each other during the week. We can work with each other. We can interact with each other. Having fellowship is making progress and it's needed. But there is another step beyond that that we should be striving for. And that's oneness.

Beyond fellowship, there is a point where we are at one – where there is a true unity of thought and mind. This oneness is something that very few people are able to achieve. And the reason why so few people know what this oneness is like is that it is conditional.

Stay here in 1 John, and let's look at 1 John, chapter 4 – turn over a page or two – 1 John, chapter 4, and let’s read verses 11 through 13.

1 John 4:11-13 1 John 4:11-13 [11] Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. [12] No man has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwells in us, and his love is perfected in us. [13] Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
American King James Version×
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him – we are one with Him – and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

And then back – 1 John 3, verse 24 – it says:

1 John 3:24 1 John 3:24And he that keeps his commandments dwells in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he stays in us, by the Spirit which he has given us.
American King James Version×
Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him and He in him. And by this, we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

So there is action that we must take, but God also provides help to achieve this oneness – His Holy Spirit. Turn back now to the book of John – the Gospel of John, chapter 14. God the Father and Jesus Christ both want oneness with each of us, and they offer it to us. As we're reading here, there are conditions to having it. So John, chapter 14, and verse 23:

John 14:23 John 14:23Jesus answered and said to him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our stayed with him.
American King James Version×
Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.

So as a summary of these three passages that John wrote, to have God abiding in us, we must love one another, we must be keeping the commandments, and we must have the Holy Spirit living in us. The scripture is clear that we cannot be one with God without meeting these conditions. The Holy Spirit is what binds in perfect harmony. I think about that, I think about the song that Mr. Lucas often sings to us, One Spirit, God's Spirit, binds us in perfect harmony – a song that I always love hearing sung.

This brings up an interesting question. Must you and another person both have the Holy Spirit in able to achieve oneness with one another? Well, I don't know that the scripture is dogmatically clear on this. I think we all probably could think of people who aren't called at this time – friends, neighbors, co-workers – that perhaps they show and exhibit some of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and they lead lives demonstrating oneness with their spouse – oneness towards other people. I would say that it is very difficult to achieve oneness with other people without both parties having the help of the Holy Spirit at some level – very difficult.

Being at one often involves sacrifice. Now that's a difficult action, right? Sacrificing of the self – our own wishes and desires – for the goal of blending the two, the three, the ten, the ten thousand – however many – together into one unit. Of course, the main scripture that comes to my mind, when I think about self-sacrifice, is found in Romans 12. Let's turn to Romans, chapter 12, and we’ll read verses 1 and 2.

Romans 12:1-2 Romans 12:1-2 [1] I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. [2] And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×
I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And this is the goal. This is the challenge – that we present our very self a living sacrifice for other people. Verse 2 goes on to give the main method by which we can accomplish this goal. It says: And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God

If we allow our minds to be transformed, from being self-centered to being God-centered then we are well on the path to having the mind of God and being one with Him and with each other.

In Mark chapter 8, Mark 8 continues the same thought about sacrifice – about denying ourselves and our wishes and our desires for a much higher purpose – oneness. Let's read here in Mark, chapter 8, and we’ll begin here in verse 34.

Mark 8:34 Mark 8:34And when he had called the people to him with his disciples also, he said to them, Whoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
American King James Version×
When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. So to follow Jesus involves denying something of ourselves. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?

So the denial of the self for the sake of Jesus Christ is necessary for us to not lose out on eternal life – to not lose our soul. Now obviously, this doesn't mean that we can't enjoy pleasures. Doesn't mean that we can't have fun in life – or have wishes and desires. But if they come in conflict with what God's will is for us – what God's wishes are for us – then we have to be willing to step back and to take that.

So oneness is a level of existence that goes beyond isolation, goes beyond fellowship. And because of our calling and the Holy Spirit that's given to us, oneness is something that's offered to you and I know, and we must be moving in that direction in all of our relationships, both with God and with other people along that line towards oneness.

So, now that we've laid that groundwork, let's go through just four aspects of life, and let's see the benefits of moving from isolation to oneness. Let's begin with marriage. This is an obvious area where it's easy to see the benefits of moving along that line. Obviously, we were all born individuals. We grow into toddlers, then pre-teens, and teenagers, and eventually teenagers will grow up and be adults as well. And once we're adults, most of us look around, and we have a desire to find someone special to share our life with – to bond with. And at this time of life, we may feel like we're in a little bit more of an isolation phase. Now I realize that not everyone desires or chooses to get married. Some are happy to live life as single people. And that's okay if they are not isolating themselves in other areas. Hopefully, they have family, they have friends, they have fellow brethren that they can be with to help ward off the dangers of isolation – to help ward off that lion that is seeking to devour us. But God's desire, though, is for man to not be alone. Let's go to Genesis 2, and let's see what God's desire was for the first man who ever lived – and then for mankind beyond that. Genesis, chapter 2. As we read these verses here, we can notice the progression along the line that God desired for Adam. So Genesis 2 – we’ll begin in verse 18.

Genesis 2:18-24 Genesis 2:18-24 [18] And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. [19] And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them: and whatever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. [20] And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. [21] And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; [22] And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her to the man. [23] And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. [24] Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall join to his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
American King James Version×
And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” And so, in the beginning, God, did not intend for man to be alone – to be by himself. God intended to satisfy this loneliness in a very special way. Verse 19: Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. Now Adam could look around, and he could see that there were two types of every animal – male and female. Obviously, he was looking around – probably pretty intensely – and wondering, “Where's my companion? Where's my female?” Well – verse 21: And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept. And He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.” So, you have two people who were once separate who are now joined together in a very special way – ordained by God from the very beginning. And not just through the act of intercourse, but in so many other ways – joined together physically and emotionally and spiritually. God intended for people not to be alone – to be isolated – but to enjoy the benefits of marriage. And ultimately, these two people that are married are to work to become one. Verse 24: Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh – moving along this line towards oneness. And marriage was always intended to be a union of two people into one. A husband and his wife are to be one flesh in every way. They are to be one unit. They are to work together. They are to be inseparable. And we who are married, need to be always striving – to be moving – in that direction with our spouse. And that's why it is so important to marry the right person.

Let's look at 2 Corinthians, chapter 6, and verse 14. This is a very important verse for our youth to keep in mind as you grow up and think about marriage, eventually. If you're looking for someone to marry it is very important to get it right, even if it takes a long time. And those who are married need to be always striving – to be moving – towards oneness. If you don't find the right person, then likely, in your marriage, you won't be able to move out of the fellowship stage into the oneness stage.

2 Corinthians 6:14 2 Corinthians 6:14Be you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion has light with darkness?
American King James Version×
Be you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion koinoniahas light with darkness?

You know, if a husband and wife can truly become one in every way, if they can continue to move themselves towards becoming one unit – one team – then I can't imagine that there could be any greater pleasure in life – in this physical life – than that. Having that soulmate, whose greatest purpose – other than trying to be at one with God – is looking to see how they can be happy and please their spouse – to sacrifice towards the happiness of their mate. I'll bet all of us, who are married, can probably look at ourselves and realize that we've all come up short in this to some extent. But this is the goal of what every married couple should be moving towards.

It always catches my attention when I see that older couple that's out there that obviously still have that love and that affection for one another. If we are truly one with our spouse, then there is still work to be done, and it takes both members to do so. Oneness is not something that one person can bring about by themselves – by himself, by herself. Amos, chapter 3, verse 3, asks this question:

Amos 3:3 Amos 3:3Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
American King James Version×
Can two walk together unless they are agreed?

If one mate does not have that desire to attain oneness, then it will not happen. But it does not remove the responsibility that you and I have to be doing all the and to work towards that.

As 1 Corinthians, chapter 7, and verse 16 says:

1 Corinthians 7:16 1 Corinthians 7:16For what know you, O wife, whether you shall save your husband? or how know you, O man, whether you shall save your wife?
American King James Version×
For how do you know, wife, if you will save your husband? And how do you know, oh husband, whether you will save your wife?

So, our example is always so important. Becoming one means being living sacrifices. We have to often sacrifice our own preferences, our own wishes, our own self in order to make the other person happy. So we need to be working to achieve oneness in our marriages.

So later on, God wanted there to be family – to be children – as well. “Be fruitful and multiply,” God said. Unfortunately, in our society today very few families truly grow to achieve that oneness together, because that's because the deck is stacked against the family. They have children born out of wedlock. They have divorced parents – non-involved parents. The trend is for children to grow up towards isolation rather than towards a close-knit family unit. Family is so important to God. It needs to be so important to each of us as well. God doesn't want each member of the family growing apart, leading separate lives. Now picture the dinner table as the kind of an icon – the symbol – of the one place the family unit should be the strongest – should manifest itself the strongest. Instead, the norm of our society today is to have mom, dad, and the kids sitting together at the dinner table, all looking at their phones – if they are even together at the table in the first place. How can that lead to family oneness? Instead, the dinner table should be a time when the family can gather together and with their undivided attention be sharing their lives with each other.

Let's see Malachi, chapter 4. God wants us all to move from being separate members of the family into being a cohesive unified family with each member loving one another and being willing to give of themselves for each other. Of course, again, we realize that it takes each member of the family for this complete oneness to happen. And that can be difficult sometimes. Oftentimes, family oneness might not happen in the fullest sense until the kids are grown, because, obviously, the teenagers can be really tough, and oftentimes, though, there is light at the end of the tunnel. And we are really encouraged by our youth that we have here and the example that you all have set as well. I can tell that you all are definitely close to your parents and to your family. I can't think of a prouder moment for parents than to be sitting around the dinner table with their grown children, all of them being very close to each other.

You know, it was really wonderful for me visiting my parents in Washington state last Thanksgiving – all of us kids sitting together at the dinner table, and my mom and dad commenting about how they were so proud of us four grown children – of the types of adults that we have become. It's a great feeling to be one with your family. It's what God wants every family to be moving towards. It's also a terrible feeling when a family is divided and scattered.

Malachi, chapter 4, verses 5 through 6, shows how important a family at one with each other is to God. So, Malachi, chapter 4, verse 5:

Malachi 4:5-6 Malachi 4:5-6 [5] Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: [6] And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
American King James Version×
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” God wants the family to be moving from isolation to oneness. And verse 6 shows how important that is to God and the dire consequences if family oneness isn't happening.

So, we've seen the importance of oneness in marriage, oneness in family, and for my third aspect of oneness: God wants you to move along this line, as well, with your fellow brethren. We are all on a journey together – a journey to the Kingdom, a journey to our Promised Land. God has always intended His people to be gathered together throughout history. We won't go there, but Leviticus, chapter 23 – a familiar chapter that talks about holy time that God has set apart. It talks about the feast days, with the first feast day being the Sabbath day. And it was to be a holy convocation – a holy convocation – which is a sacred meeting together in a public place. That's what a holy convocation is. So God wanted the Israelites to gather together each week on the Sabbath. But not only then. If you go through Leviticus 23, and you see each of the Feast days described, and the assembling that was commanded – not requested – on those days. And then, as the Israelites settled into the Promised Land, they were at very regular and predictable times – set times – to make sure that they came together as a people. God didn't want them to just stay at their farms all the time because that would have lead to a fragmentation of the people. And so, as we keep the weekly Sabbaths, as we keep the annual Holy Days, God emphasizes the need for us to fellowship together – to congregate together, to work together. We are to have fellowship with one another.

Go to Acts, chapter 2, and let's see here that this was the case right from the very beginning of the New Testament church. Acts chapter 2, verse number 41 talks about the 3,000 people that were added to the church. And then Acts, chapter 2, and verse 42 goes on to say:

Acts 2:42 Acts 2:42And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
American King James Version×
And they continued steadfastly in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship - koinoneaand in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. And so fellowship was very important right from the very beginning. And we need to take advantages of the opportunities we have at church services to fellowship. Sometimes we come late and leave early. We should come early and leave late.

Let's turn to Hebrews 10 – Hebrews, chapter 10 – a familiar scripture here, but one that can't be explained away by those who would just stay at home on the Sabbath. Hebrews, chapter 10, and verse 24 says:

Hebrews 10:24-25 Hebrews 10:24-25 [24] And let us consider one another to provoke to love and to good works: [25] Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.
American King James Version×
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works – so again, action involved towards one another – not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

We are commanded as part of Sabbath and holy day observance to gather together publicly. God commands us to be meeting together with one another, fellowshipping with one another, not just staying at home listening to cybercasts, if we are otherwise physically able to assemble. I realize not all are physically able to assemble. I realize that, for some, the journey is too far due to health or distance or for other reasons, as Deuteronomy, chapter 14, does give allowance for. But to the extent that we have the ability to convene together, doing this will help lead to the oneness that God wants among His firstfruits.

And so, as we live this life, as God’s called out firstfruits, and we move from isolation to fellowship, that's good and that's needed, but there is something that still needs to go beyond that. All you have to do is look at the history of the Church of God in the last forty or so years to see that simply fellowshipping together is not enough. There are lots of people that have fellowshipped with us that are no longer with us. I would say that one of the biggest reasons why we've had so many Church of God splits through the years is that so many ministers and members alike did not progress onto the oneness stage with one another. Of course, that's my opinion.

1 Corinthians, chapter 12, shows that each member of the body has a purpose – it has a function – with the overriding purpose being to come to oneness with one another and oneness with God. 1 Corinthians 12 – we’ll read verses 20 through 26 – and I'm going to read this from the New Living Translation.

1 Corinthians 12:20-26 1 Corinthians 12:20-26 [20] But now are they many members, yet but one body. [21] And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. [22] No, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: [23] And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. [24] For our comely parts have no need: but God has tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked. [25] That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. [26] And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.
American King James Version×
Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are really the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect from the eyes of others those parts that should not be seen, while other parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together in such a way that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members so that all of the members care for each other equally. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it. And if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. And so, we have all the individual parts of the body – you and I. We are to be joined together to form one body.

Let's go back to Romans 12. Romans, chapter 12 – we read verses 1 and 2 earlier – talking about being a living sacrifice. And the reason, again, that we do that is to bring people together into oneness. But how are we to be living sacrifices? Well, going on in this chapter – Roman 12, verse number 3 – it says:

Romans 12:3 Romans 12:3For I say, through the grace given to me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God has dealt to every man the measure of faith.
American King James Version×
For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. And so it starts out here with humility. Not thinking, well, I am more important than you. But instead, we should all be humbly lifting the other person up.

V-4-5 –For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. If that's the oneness that we are to be moving to, then we can get there if we become the living sacrifices that God wants us to be.

Do you have a special talent? Well, if you do, you need to be using it. We are to be using our gifts to serve one another. Again, it was so wonderful to see our youth up here today serving and sharing of their gifts with the rest of us. If you go to verse number 6:

V-6-8 –Having then gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. We don't often think of giving, and leading, and exhortation and serving as gifts, but these are all gifts that God has given to various ones and to various levels as well.

V-9 – Let love be without hypocrisy. Don't have an ulterior motive for whatever it is that we are doing. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to – myself? No – to one another – preference to one another. Drop down to verse 15.

Verse 15-16 – Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. In our congregation, we are to be working towards oneness. God the Father and Jesus Christ have worked together as one unit from the very beginning, and we are to be like them. If we don't know how to work together with our families or work with each other in the church, then how is God going to be able to expect that we are going to be able to work together in the Kingdom? God's Spirit, along with obedience to all His commandments – showing love to one another – produces love and unity within a congregation.

Let's go next to 1 Peter, chapter 3. Here in 1 Peter 3, we will see that Peter also, he wanted the brethren to be of one mind. This was important to him.

1 Peter 3:8-9 1 Peter 3:8-9 [8] Finally, be you all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brothers, be pitiful, be courteous: [9] Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that you are thereunto called, that you should inherit a blessing.
American King James Version×
Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

Again, we are so blessed here because we have so many opportunities to each other and to work with each other, not just on the Sabbath. But that's not the case for most members – for most of the church, I would say – especially for those of you listening on the cybercast. I've given this message to three other church areas. All three church areas are 30 people or less – very, very small congregations that are scattered far and wide from each other. I know when you are a small congregation, and distance separates, how hard that can be. Sometimes, the only time you can see someone is on the Sabbath. And so then, those who are the scattered brethren, who can only see each other on the Sabbath, they need to make the most of their Sabbath time together. And through social media, it's a lot easier to keep up with people during the week than it used to be. Of course, we can still pray for one another. We can still pick up that phone and call. We can still write cards, send notes to each other. We can find ways to keep the relationships going until the next Sabbath, even if we are scattered. It's all about trying to be one with one another despite our circumstances. Ask not what your church can do for you, but ask what you can do for your church – for your brethren.

Let's go to one final scripture on this point – Psalm 133. Psalm, chapter 133 describes what you and I are doing here today – and especially today – a very special day that we had.

Psalms 133:1 Psalms 133:1Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!
American King James Version×
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

You know, it's not only good and pleasant for you and I for us to be dwelling together in unity, but it's pleasant for God as well. I'm sure God was looking down, and probably had a smile on His face as you youth were doing the special music. I'm sure that was very, very pleasant for Him. We can go on, but I think the point has been made that within the church, purposely isolating ourselves is not acceptable. Having fellowship is good, and it's needed, but it's not enough. In order for all of us to win the race to the Kingdom, as brethren, we need to be moving together towards oneness with each other.

Now the final way I want to talk about moving along this continuum from isolation to oneness is in our relationship with God. God wants us to be at one with Him. And God has always wanted oneness with His people. He wanted that with Adam and Eve and He has wanted that humankind ever since. Let's look at Leviticus 26, and we will just see very briefly here that this is the way God felt even way back for the ancient Israelites. Leviticus, chapter 26…there are several scriptures that we could turn to, that pretty much, say the same thing, but we will read Leviticus 26, verses 11 through 12, where it says:

Leviticus 26:11-12 Leviticus 26:11-12 [11] And I set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you. [12] And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people.
American King James Version×
I will set My tabernacle among you, and My soul shall not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.

God has always wanted to have that close relationship with His people. God is a relational being, and He created us humans to be relational beings as well. Now, later on, God offered His Holy Spirit to the firstfruits so oneness with Him, with each other, could happen in a more fuller way.

Let's turn to Romans 8. Romans, chapter 8 – here, once again, we will see that the Holy Spirit is what binds us together as the family of God. Romans 8 – we’ll read verses 14 through 17.

Romans 8:14-17 Romans 8:14-17 [14] For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. [15] For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. [16] The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: [17] And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
American King James Version×
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

Of course, our youth, your youth, have this opportunity as well to have this oneness with God. It's not just something that is just for your parents. It is for you as well. Because of the calling of your parents, you are considered holy by God. And this wonderful relationship with God is available for you all, also.

Turn next to Ephesians 2. We are all part of a spiritual building. A spiritual temple being built by God with Jesus Christ at the foundation. And it's made up of members of the household of God, both young and young at heart. In Ephesians 2, we have the apostle Paul here, beginning in verse 19.

Ephesians 2:19 Ephesians 2:19Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
American King James Version×
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God – this is all of us –having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together – why? – for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

We are being built together so that there is a place where God's Spirit can dwell. This temple – this building that we are part of together – is greater than each of us individually. That's because it's God's household, and we are all members of His household. When you live in a house, you're in a common dwelling place with other people. In God's house, He intends for us to be members together interacting with each other, just like we would in a physical house – interacting with Him as well.

Now, what can someone do to keep this oneness with God from happening? What could separate you from God? Well, a number of different places tell us that sin and disobedience separates us from God. Let's look at Isaiah 59. We read earlier about how the Holy Spirit abides in us if we love one another and we keep the commandments of God. When we do the opposite, and we drift away from God, and we drift away from each other, and we start breaking His commandments – even if it's just in one area – the opposite happens. When we drift apart from God and from one another, we separate ourselves from God. We're no longer being a part of that coming together.

Isaiah 59:2 Isaiah 59:2But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
American King James Version×
But your iniquities have separated you from your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He will not hear.

Now that's a terrible place to be at. Because when we sin, and we go against God in some way, then we put a gulf between us and God. And this gulf can only be repaired if we go to God in true repentance of our sins and we ask Him for forgiveness.

Now this opportunity for oneness with God is so exciting. As I mentioned earlier, that for humans to become one, it takes both parties participating for that to happen. And in that sense, as much as I might want to have oneness with another human being, it's not going to happen if that other human does not want to have that same oneness. It's not in my control. I can't make someone else be one with me. However, with God it is fully in my control – oneness with God is. That's what makes it exciting because God is always there for us. God will never leave us. God will never forsake us. It is us who are the weak link. It is us that can break that oneness with God. Only you can destroy your opportunity to be one with God. And oneness with God is guaranteed if you are willing to do your part. And that's such a relief – such a relief – to know and to have that.

God and Jesus Christ have always been one. And They set the ultimate example of oneness for you and I. Let's see this in John, chapter 17. As we read these verses, let's truly examine ourselves, and ask ourselves if we have this desire to have the same level of oneness in our lives – both with God and with each other. And so here, in John 17, these are the final thoughts and prayer that Jesus had as a human on this earth before He was betrayed and arrested. And notice how oneness was reflected in this prayer. And so starting out in verse 1 we see that Jesus starts out praying for Himself, asking God to turn His focus to His Father.

John 17:1 John 17:1These words spoke Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify your Son, that your Son also may glorify you:
American King James Version×
Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You. And then in verse number 5:

V-5 – And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself. And so Jesus Christ, Himself, He looked to His Father in Heaven and He wanted to be a reflection of God in Himself. He wanted that oneness of mind and thought with His Father in Heaven. And Jesus also wanted the called-out firstfruits to have this same oneness of mind. And so, He goes on and prays for His disciples specifically. Let's pick it up here in verse 9:

V-9-10 –I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. And so the glory of Jesus Christ was to be reflected through His disciples – not through the whole world yet at that time, as we know the greater harvest would come later on.

V-11 – Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as we are. Before He was a human, Christ and God the Father had a oneness together that was unlike any other. And Christ knew what it was like to have this kind of oneness. He remembered it. And as a human, the night before His crucifixion, this was first and foremost on His mind. Christ prayed that his disciples would have this same level of oneness with each other. And going beyond just His disciples, to the church as a whole, how unified does Jesus want us to be? Well, in verse 20, Christ says:

V-20-21 – I do not pray for these alone – I'm not just praying for My disciples – but also for those who will believe in Me through their word. What was His prayer? Verse 21: That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And so Christ prayed that we would be so like Him, that we would be so committed to the truth and oneness that, when the world looks on us, they will be able to see and they will be able to know that we are of God – we have something special.

Galatians 3:28 Galatians 3:28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
American King James Version×
There is neither Jew nor Greek. There is neither slave nor free. There is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. That's Galatians 3:28 Galatians 3:28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
American King James Version×
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What is important is that we attain that oneness with Christ and that we reflect the glory of Jesus Christ and God the Father in us as we live our lives. This oneness is so important to them. It's a very essential, sobering task – one that you and I can't be taking lightly. God wants us to be at one with Him. We even have a holy day that signifies this – the Day of Atonement – at-one-ment – the exciting time in the future when Satan will finally be put away, and all mankind will, at last, have the path open – the way will be paved – for them to have fellowship and oneness unhindered with God – to be one with them. Of course, that time will be well worth patiently waiting for.

I want to quote from an article I found on 1reasonroad.com. It's dated August 26, 2016, and it's called Isolation: Satan's Clever Tool. And these are the concluding remarks of this article – again, found on the number one, 1reasonroad.com.

What do I mean, pursue isolation? We each have our own way of doing it. God did not intend for us to function alone – that we isolate ourselves in our own soundproof world and comfort zones. He did not intend that we walk through life disconnected from others by earphones, iPhones, cheap attractions and addictions. Even within a family, or church, members can pursue isolation. When we do so, we make life easy for Satan. Perhaps we simply do not understand the danger. The opposite of pursue isolation is draw closer together – or as I have phrased it – oneness. There is no remote control in keeping God's law of love. We cannot love others from a distance. The task is not part-time and cannot be done as we look up and down at our cell phones. It requires real energy. We devote great energy to loving ourselves. Does it not seem logical that we devote similar energy loving others? And the article concludes by saying: The first great law to love God with all our heart connects us to Him. The second law connects us to our fellow human beings. Each of these two great laws opposes isolation. Whether married or single, young or old, or whether we associate with many people or a few, the bottom line is this: we should be wary of isolation, however, it manifests itself in our lives.

Brethren we must be wary of the danger of isolation. We must be moving ourselves towards oneness. If you, one day, find yourself going through a health difficulty, or a serious trial come your way, it can be very tempting to isolate yourself. Don't let that happen. Don't let yourself become isolated. You may not be able to come back out of it.

When we come to church and then quickly leave, and we don't practice pure and undefiled religion towards others, when we don't serve others, when we don't share our gifts with others, then we are moving towards isolation. When a minister divides his congregation in half, he is moving the whole group towards isolation. When a husband and a wife get divorced, the whole family is moved towards isolation. When we sin and we don't repent, we isolate ourselves from God.

So brethren, everyone, brethren, youth as well, please take one last look at that line that you have drawn. As you study that line and meditate on its three points, think about the various areas of your life, including your marriage, your family, your fellow brethren, your God, and ask yourself – in each area – am I moving backwards towards isolation, or am I moving forward along that line, from isolation to fellowship to oneness?

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